3 May 2016

Double amputee and New York marathoner Ian Winson

From Nine To Noon, 10:08 am on 3 May 2016

New Zealand's physical rehabilitation facilities are lagging behind the rest of the world, double amputee and marathon runner Ian Winson says. 

Ian Winson on his foot powered tricycle wheelchair surrounded by crowds a the New York Marathon

Ian Winson competing in the New York Marathon Photo: Supplied

Mr Winson, a double above-the-knee amputee, lost his legs in a gas explosion in Auckland in June 2011.

He has documented his long road towards recovery in a new book, Never Give Up, that culminates with him becoming the first ever double above-the-knee amputee to compete in the New York marathon - he has hopes to eventually compete as a Paralympian.

Speaking to Nine to Noon today, he said he had only praise for the staff of the rehabilitation facilities but that the facilities were lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of equipment and they could do with a revamp. 

"What I've always said is that the doctors and the nurses at Auckland hospital or at the hospitals around New Zealand are very good at putting people back together.

"But the real work only starts when you leave hospital and go to a rehab facility. 

He said he had a chance to see rehab centre the Spalding unit in Boston and there was a feeling there that patients wanted to get better.

"When you go and visit some of our rehab facilities, it doesn't really make you feel - I wasn't too happy to go from hospital to rehab, let's put it that way." 

However, he said New Zealand was slowly advancing when it came to prosthetics - it was just price that was a stumbling block. 

"When I was in Boston I didn’t see anyone in the rehab unit with an old hydraulic leg, they were all on microprocessing legs, so they were all on computerised legs. That’s slowly happening with us, but you’ve got to be mindful… they are expensive, there’s no two ways about it."

He lost both his legs and one of his fingers - and suffered a traumatic brain injury which went undiagnosed for 18 months.

He said he had been through 26 surgeries since the accident, but was still feeling the psychological effects of the amputations.

"The psychological impact is still an ongoing thing, I had an hour's treatment yesterday with my neuropsychologist just trying to work out ways to deal with things and making sure I get enough sleep.

"It's a bit of a fight, the old brain and the new brain is definitely at each other at times." 

However, he said New Zealanders were blessed when it came to ACC.

"It's just wonderful, when you think of what my life could have been like. 

"The thing with ACC is you've got to come across with logic, you've got to come across with why you need things.

"There's a perception that if you have an injury, ACC will pay for the yacht, and they'll pay for the jet ski and they'll pay for this and pay for that and in hindsight that's really not what it's all about." 

Recovery through sport and family

He said his wife's support had kept him and his family going, and his own drive kept him striving to remain active.

"It was always in the back of my mind that I would always get back into some kind of sport, I've played sport since I was about 5 years old, so sport is a central core to who I am and it was never going to let that diminish just because I've got physical injuries now. 

"Early on in the rehabilitation process, you know, I was well aware of paralympics and how far that has come in the last 12 years and how the performance of paralympians or people with disabilities has really gone up several notches. 

Mr Winson completed the New York Marathon in about four hours, and said it was an emotional day. 

"They weren't over the moon about me being there pedalling a bike rather than a hand cycle, but they put a picture of me in the official results magazine, so... they can't be too upset that I competed. 

He is now aiming to go to the Tokyo 2020 paralympics, and said he had reached some big milestones in the pool.

Dim memories of the accident

He said he had pieced together some of what had caused the accident, although it was mostly through the accounts of co-workers. 

"I don't remember a lot, just little snippets - I don't remember the night before either."

He had been on his hands and knees inspecting a water pipe for leaks in an underground tunnel in Onehunga when 500m away two subcontractors were using a blowtorch to cut through a section of piping.

"Fourteen days later I sort of came out of a medical state where I could actually speak." 

In court, it was found out the contractors had never actually tested the area for gas.

The council-owned water company was ordered to pay $396,000 for failing to protect its workers.

  • http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/218490/court-told-gas-in-water-main-months-before-fatal-blast